Standing on a stage in front of a large crowd, he stands there heart beating with anticipation. Another sold out show at Gruene Hall. It’s a beautiful late summer night in Texas and there’s no place else he’d rather be. The fiddle takes the spotlight first followed by the strumming of his acoustic guitar. Tonight is special because the audience is in for a treat. As Deryl Dodd begins to sing his famous song One Ride In Vegas, he will be joined by a special guest. Just about 1:45 into the performance, Cody Johnson walks forward from the darkness, singing ever so smoothly. The crowd erupts into applause and cheering, firing up the band.
Well, that’s how I picture it going down anyways…
Long Hot Summer Day. The first song I ever heard by now one of my favorite bands, the Turnpike Troubadours. I vividly remember first hearing that song and the video someone had put together on YouTube. I had been slowly working my way into Texas Country, truthfully not even knowing what regional style of music it was. Someone had posted this video on a website and it took me a few times to get into it. But soon enough, I was hooked on these guys. And if you haven’t heard of this band, you should. And quite frankly, pretty soon, you’ll know regardless.
I want to take a minute to put some thoughts together on the recent events that we all have witnessed with Hurricane Harvey. It isn’t often that I will do something like this, but times like these deserve some thoughts of mine.
Vocals that are smooth as slick come from my speakers as I sit down Saturday to listen to a new song. The soft acoustic guitar opens up and is soon joined by electric and pedal steel. Unfamiliar with the artist, I’m intrigued at this track. Not the least surprised however, because it’s a Fort Worth Sound Bart Rose production. Bart Rose has worked with an incredible amount of artists over his 25 plus year experience. Through Rose I learned about this song, I Can’t Win, and it’s craftsman, singer-songwriter, Jay Smith.
Having stumbled across the Scooter Brown Band some five or six years ago, I spent many days in my college job cranking their music to get me through shifts. Their southern rock sound has taken a heavier sound in recent years from what initially drew me in, but they’ve been coming into their own as time passes. Their 2009 album Between Hell and Texas was more twangy country rock than the latest distorted guitar driven tunes. Hearing the announcement of their latest song, American Son prompted me to fire it up and take it for a spin.
Sometimes in our lives, we are quick to start trying to plan everything out. We THINK we have some sort of idea what we will be doing two, five, even 20 years from now. Little do we realize, our daily experiences compile and begin to shape who we are. What we thought we would be doing for work may very well not be the case a few years down the road. The same can be said for many music talents. There are some that know what type of music they want to play, and there are others who have a burning passion to just play music. Their brand of music. Sometimes, they aren’t quite sure where they fit in. Well that is quite alright. And if you need any reassurance, take a look at Steve Moakler. The guy from Pittsburgh that moved to Nashville some 10 years ago and all the while has been building up to his excellent 2017 release, Steel Town.
Say what? Since when?
This is one of those statements that makes me face palm all day long. I don’t even understand what this means. I’ve been working out to country for years. Do you think it’s your generalization that all country music is slow? Could it be the very same ideology that you possess that makes you think much of the country music I talk about is too redneck?
As with any field, there are generations that enjoy their time at the top of the pack, guiding the way for the new talent. In Texas, we have slowly seen the shift to those we were calling up-and-comers just a few years ago. Paying their dues, packing the smaller venues and gathering new fans everywhere they went. From 10-15 passenger van and cargo trailer to big money 45’ Prevost Coach Buses hauling tandem axle merch trailers. In true overnight success fashion, some 10 plus years later they find themselves as the top dogs of Texas Country music. Arguably one of the largest names in all of Texas music is currently Josh Abbott Band and Until My Voice Goes Out is only going to propel them further to new heights.
For many country music fans, the perceived pinnacle of success in country music is to land a record deal in Nashville. Long viewed as the Mecca of country music, many unenlightened fans still lack the understanding that Nashville is no longer the sole hub for talent in the country world. It has become the once glamorous mom and pop store that everyone loved to visit, to the chain store that cares solely about the business side of things – alienating it's core customers and the quality products they expected. While there are the occasional whispers of hope from within it's doors, it continues to disappoint and turn people away. Those that also think Nashville has no talent need a slap across their face. There is plenty, but they fail to receive mainstream success or press. Independent artist Craig Gerdes knows all too well that feeling of alienation within Nashville, and he's releasing a new record next year that will have some execs eating their cowboy hat. Oh wait, they don't know what those are…
With the independent country landscape heating up, we’re seeing it work it’s way here in New England as well. It’s exciting to see the shows continue to be added and I hope to try and attended a bunch of them. It’s my goal to review these shows as I attend to help these artists gain some fans up here with my growing readership. Check out this list I compiled on the ones I have been watching.
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
Check out my spotify for good tunes!